Thursday, April 05, 2007

Ashcroft Undermined Civil Rights Division at DOJ

From the article Bush's Long History of Politicizing Justice:

... Instead of attending to the Civil Rights Division's historic mission, addressing the legacy of slavery by enforcing anti-discrimination laws, the Bush administration has employed the division to advance the political agenda of a key GOP constituency, the Christian right and also, quite literally, to get Republicans elected.

Accomplishing these goals required a drastic change in personnel, which necessitated dismantling the hiring system, forcing out or silencing career (nonpolitical) staff, and replacing them with people without civil rights expertise but with demonstrated ideological and partisan loyalties. It was a project that took years to execute because several checks on such a scenario had long been in place, checks that earlier administrations of both parties had respected...

In an e-mail to his 125,000 employees on his first day on the job, Ashcroft promised to guarantee "rights for the advancement of all Americans." But actions were soon speaking louder than words. Regular meetings of the division's section chiefs and the political leadership were virtually discontinued. In a tradition dating to the 1950s, presidents have asked an American Bar Association committee to provide a confidential rating of the qualifications of judicial candidates before the nominations are sent to the Senate for confirmation. Ashcroft and then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales met with the ABA and then terminated the ABA's advisory role. Once Ashcroft began hiring his own choices, career attorneys noticed that many of the new hires were members of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group. Ashcroft himself was called an active supporter of the Federalist Society, and several of the top legal positions throughout the administration were all held by Federalist Society members.

Then, much the way some companies go green, DOJ under Ashcroft went Pentecostal. In correspondence, use of the word "pride" was forbidden because the Bible calls pride a sin; employees were also asked to never use the phrase "no higher calling than public service." Ashcroft instituted prayer meetings, leading a Bible study at 8 a.m. sharp each day, some days even in his office, on others in a conference room at Main Justice. All department employees, regardless of their religious affiliation, were invited to attend, but in reality few did...

Hat tip to FiredUpMissouri.

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